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Aso ebi: Gate Pass To Social Gatherings

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A popular Yoruba adage says, “Eni o wo ankara o je semo” meaning:  the guest who does not wear uniform fabrics, popularly called ‘Aso ebi’ will not eat at the social gathering the fabric is meant to celebrate.
‘Aso ebi’, usually worn by family members  and friends at ceremonies, has in contemporary times,  become the gate pass to social events such as weddings, burials, harvests, ordination of religious leaders, political rallies and campaigns in Nigeria. It gives a sense of belonging to those who adorn them during the events. It equally makes the celebrator to feel loved and important.
According to Wikipedia, ‘Aso ebi’ is a uniform-attire traditionally worn in Nigeria and in some other West African countries as an indicator of cooperation and solidarity during ceremonies and festive periods.  `Aso ebi’ can be made with Ankara, Lace, ‘Aso oke’ (hand woven fabrics), Damask, George, `atiku’, `Senator’, and a host of others materials for both men and women.
The prices of these fabrics range from N500 per pack to N150,000 depending on the class, status and taste of the celebrator. They are mostly sewn in native blouse and wrapper/skirt or gown for women and native shirt and trousers/wrapper and even ‘agbada’ for men.
‘Aso ebi’ adds beauty, colour and glamour and grandeur to events.
Analysts note that guests who wear ‘Aso ebi’ to social functions are usually believed to have directly or indirectly contributed to the success of such functions.
They also argue that those determined to identify with a celebrator through adorning of ‘Aso ebi’ often do not mind the quality or market value of the fabric.
According to analysts, a guest who refuses to adorn ‘Aso ebi’ may receive cold reception especially from ushers at the event no matter how highly placed or influential he may be.
Thus, most guests purchase ‘Aso ebi’ and appear in them on the day of the events, whether convenient or not,  just to fulfill all righteousness, since they are not likely to wear them after that day.
It is also believed that some people see the purchasing of these outfits as an opportunity to acquire more clothes as they may not have the time to go to markets to buy fabrics.
A fashion designer, Mrs Seun Olujide, says an average of 10 ladies send ‘Aso ebi’ to her shop for sewing weekly because of one event or the other.
“This keeps us busy, helps us to hone our designing skills, and deepens our mastery of the art while we make a living from it.
“When our clients wear their fabrics, it gives them a sense of belonging when they get to the event venue because no one likes to feel left out. We are also fulfilled as fashion designers when our clients bring us commendation from their friends and admirers about our works.
“Personally, when I attend a wedding in ‘Aso ebi’, it increases my confidence. I don’t feel like outcast or someone who does not want to support her friend or family member,” she says.
Mr Ojo Ogidi, however, notes that some people exploit ‘Aso ebi’ buyers by selling to them at high prices, noting that this makes such people unable to sell more packs of   `Aso ebi’ because some intending buyers would have carried out market survey and observed the exploitation.
“To beat such pranks, two or more potential buyers will   jointly buy just a set, instead of the individuals buying a set each,’’ he argues.
A civil servant, Mr Funmi Ajayi, says she teamed up with four others and bought a set of lace materials for a wedding which the event host sold at a skyrocketing price.
“We decided to buy a set and share it among ourselves. Each of us gave to our fashion designer who combined it with other matching fabrics and sewed.
“Our host gave us a single gift which we gave to the oldest among us. By doing so, we contributed to the success of the wedding and were accorded the same recognition at the reception as others who bought and wore the full set of the lace material,’’ Ajayi says.
Mrs Boluwatife Alabi of April Fabrics, Lagos, is of the opinion that an event without ‘Aso ebi’ is incomplete.
“What is a wedding without the ‘Aso ebi’ ladies? What is a celebration of life without friends and family members cladding in `Aso ebi’ of various materials and styles?
“I make it a point of duty to select the best fabrics for my clients because the more colourful the fabrics, the more colourful the event will be,’’ the fabrics seller argues.
She explains that ‘Aso ebi’ sellers add a little amount to the market price of the fabrics to cover the cost of souvenirs to be given to guests.
“I am aware of instances where certain amount are added to the cost price by organisers, but that is to cover for souvenirs that will be distributed to guests during the function.”
A student, Miss Itunu Asamany, believes that ‘Aso ebi’ is vital to social functions as it serves as a means of identification with age mates, relatives, groups or friends.
“It always makes such events beautiful, colourful and well organised. The bride during her wedding will be able to identify her friends and close relatives by what they wear,’’ she says.
Asamany, however, condemns charging of outrageous prices for ‘Aso ebi’ by some celebrators. She is convinced that the high prices are exploitative and can discourage many potential `aso-ebi’ buyers.
“Some people go as far as adding 30 per cent of the cost price to the selling price; this is not fair at all.
“I won’t break a bank to please my friend. If the selling price of the ‘Aso ebi’ is beyond my budget, I will not buy it but go for what is within my power.”
However, a trader, Mr Koko Adeola, has a different view. He says he will not mind spending a huge amount of money on ‘Aso ebi’ for close friends but won’t bother doing so for an acquaintance.
“I will not buy an expensive “Aso ebi’’ from someone who is just an acquaintance. The level of relationship I have with you will determine whether I will attend your function in `Aso ebi’. A major advantage of ‘Aso ebi’ is that it helps to identify invited guests from those who gate-crashed,’’ he says.
He observes that ‘Aso ebi’ is less expensive for men. “Men are lucky when it comes to buying ‘Aso ebi’ because, many times, all they need to buy is just the cap which may not cost more than N500.’’
A businesswoman, Ada Mbah, is worried that ‘Aso ebi’ can breed unhealthy rivalry between families, especially, during entertainment and sharing of gifts at events.
“Why should  the family and friends of the groom be refused food and drinks because they are wearing a different fabric (‘Aso ebi’) from those of the bride?
“I attended an event without wearing the ‘Aso ebi’ and I was told that only people with the uniform would be entertained and given gifts.
“I was embarrassed because I bought the fabric but did not wear it to that particular occasion. I really felt bad because I was addressed very rudely and treated like outcast.
Mbah’s friend, Deborah Ige, is of the opinion that a guest can still be treated badly even when wearing Aso ebi. She recalls when she was ignored during entertainment at a ceremony even with her ‘Aso ebi’.
He says: “I bought the fabric for the event, but when it was time for entertainment, I only got a bottle of water.’’
According to her, getting the required attention during social gatherings with or without ‘Aso ebi’ will depend on planning.
“There are instances where the population of the guests is  more than what the host has budgeted for; he or she will  resort to rationing foods and drinks,’’ she argues.
A marketer,  Mr Joseph Omojola,  is of the opinion that since ‘Aso ebi’ has become the trending gate pass to events whether secular or religious, there is the need for more security consciousness to ensure that criminal elements do not disguise as family members or friends by wearing the ‘Aso ebi’.
Analysts are convinced that wearing ‘Aso ebi’ is a major way of promoting African culture, and if well managed, will reduce foreign influence on Africans’ dressing.
They suggest that African governments should do more to promote local production of the indigenous fabrics at affordable costs and consider using them for school uniforms and office wears on certain days of the week.
Onijala writes for News Agency of Nigeria.

 

Busayo Onijala

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Political Parties In Nigeria And Women Leadership

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In Nigeria, the startling statistics of women’s performances at every poll at elections are a thing that needs be seriously addressed and urgently too. Rwanda has nearly conquered this problem of gender parity, recording 40% women representation in their Parliament, South Africa has 50% women in the Cabinet.
Women leadership in political parties is a very important and critical issue as regards remediating women’s hopelessness in every political party power-sharing processes. These women leaders are the entry points or gate-keepers in political parties and so are very strategic for women participation in politics. Unfortunately, most of the women who had held the position so far had failed the women as they have not adequately represented the women.
This is one of the reasons why women have often recorded abysmal results at every elections. At the last concluded elections, the story is not different. Only 7 (seven) women out of 109 composition in the Senate and about 36 women out of 360 at the House of Representatives made it at the polls. This is way down from what obtained at the previous elections.
In Rivers State, no woman in the State House of Assembly, one woman Deputy Governor, three Commissioners out of 23. These scores can never make for good representation for women in politics even in another generation if steps are not taken to correct the trend.
The role of women leadership in political parties is not well conceived by the occupiers of those positions. There is therefore, the urgent need to illuminate on what actually a woman leader in a party should buy herself on and so make the position worth-its –while for women’s progress in the political development and empowerment of the teeming and willing female political population who remain perpetually on the back seats in the political boats.
The role of women leaders in political parties are multi-faceted. They include among others; mobilization, advocacy for women issues, help in legislation of women issues, raising funds for women political participation, economic empowerment of women, involvement in peace process in the party, environment protection collaboration with other stakeholders, monitoring and evaluating programmes for women development and participation in politics.
Women leaders in political parties it has been discovered, have only been able to accomplish just one out of the myriads of functions in the leadership of their organizations. They are still great mobilisers we agree. But mobilization is just one of the functions of leadership in a political party. These women busy themselves on mobilizing women for the benefit of men who are aspiring to hold great political positions. Women leaders in this country busy themselves in cheering men into positions of authority, cook their food and make them (the men) generally comfortable. Women leaders should know that their role of mobilizing is also to position women who desire and deserve to sit on positions of authority in the party and by extension in power-sharing in the polity of the country. As gate-keepers, women leaders must change their dance steps and see to it that women record successes in the polls.
Women leaders must pioneer advocacies on women power sharing in the party and placement of deserving women in decision-making positions from local government, state, and at the national level including the welfare of women in the party.
They must work with other women, organizations or seasoned women leaders in the state by way of networking with them to achieve women’s goals and purposes in the country. Here the Women Affairs Ministry both at the national and state levels must join hands with the women leaders like the NCWS, the great umbrella for women organization in Nigeria to boost women issues.
Being the egg-head of women participation in parties. Women leaders must with the help of other organizations, like FIDA, National Council of Women Societies (NCWS) and other vibrant women organizations push those debilitating laws and cultural practices that harm women’s development for legislation in the state Houses of Assembly. They must make sure more women are voted into the state House of Assembly and at the National Assembly. By so doing, it is obvious women’s issues when brought to the Houses of Assembly for debate would make easy passage in their deliberations.
Another role of women leaders in the party is to organize programmes for raising funds for effective women’s participation in politics. We are all aware that men have a way of supporting each other financially and otherwise but women lack this aspect of working for other women to succeed. This is a habit the women leaders of this post millennium must imbibe and transmit to their followers.
We are all too familiar with the way and manner the men go about empowering their fellow men. There is a male commissioner in one state who made his male personal assistant a commissioner in that same state which woman leader has done that?
Perhaps women would argue they are not too rich to empower their fellow women. This is true to some extent, but if women leaders can formulate programmes and projects using their parties as platforms, this goal could be achieved easily. If proposals on economic empowerment of women are well written, well-articulated and forwarded to the party hierarchy, I am sure if six proposals are sent across, there is every likelihood that two or three of these proposals would scale through. This will no doubt empower a crop of women who are well positioned to contest in any elections.
Since development can only come when there is peace in any organization, the woman-leader there to make in the various sectors of the party with her team of followers. Most times the gladiators (male of course) in the party fight themselves out leaving the women and their issues to the back burner. Women leaders must initiate peace building amongst warring factors in the party.
Women leaders must not restrict their activities to only political matters. They must go beyond politics and see to their ailing environments. Women leaders must engage their followers in clean-up exercises around the party, state, etc. if there are oil spillages and toxic wastes in their environment, they must be part of the solution to such problems in their localities. This makes them to be recognized persons in the community all the time and would be called up for other or higher responsibilities in the community.
As a matter of obtaining absolute effectiveness to pursuing women’s issues to the front burner, there must be a tripartite arrangement, the governor’s wife, the Ministry of Women Affairs and the woman leader. The three must work together on the various programmes and projects.
The woman-leader who is a grassroots person, could set the agenda for programme formulation. She will first of all identify the women’s problems, and then formulates the programme which will be brought to the notice of the wife of the Governor and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for discussion. With these three working together with one voice and committed to changing the hopeless situation of women, they can achieve a lot in the shortest possible time. As the saying goes, there is strength in collectivity and two heads are better than one. Any of the programmes could be initiated by any of the three persons mentioned above. The bottom line is if the trio could work committedly there will not be any friction amongst them. Each will need the other to let the boat sail to shore.
Very importantly, projects and programmes monitored and evaluated periodically to assess the rate of success of each programme and adjust with new strategies whenever, to obtain maximum result.
In conclusion, women leadership in political parties is critical and must be seen as a great opportunity for rendering a service to the impoverished, rejected, dejected and voiceless women in the community. The woman leader is a rallying point for women.
Nimi Thom-Manuel is a social critique in Port Harcourt.

 

Nimi Thom-Manuel

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Why Firms Need To Employ More Women As Leaders

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Having more women in decision-making roles has been found to generate stronger market returns, superior profits and reduce sexual harassment.
“You’re too accessible.” That is what Susan Zirinsky, the new head of CBSNews, was told early in her career because she was seemingly everywhere at once. It was during that era that she agreed to meet a young woman named Hannah Yang, who was on the verge of quitting what she had thought would be her dream job, working for talk show host Charlie Rose. She was troubled by the workplace environment and had decided to leave, but was convinced her career in journalism would be over.
Yang had only briefly met Zirinsky, then executive producer at 48 Hours, but decided to ask for a meeting. She expected Zirinsky to say no. Instead, Zirinsky ended up giving her the most valuable advice of her career: to pursue the business side of media.
Eighteen years later, Zirinsky, known to many as “Z”, is president of CBS News, brought in to run the news division following a massive company crisis over sexual misconduct that included the firing of the company’s chief executive, Les Moonves, and Rose. She is the first woman to hold that job. Yang is a business executive at The New York Times, who says she now makes a point of making herself accessible, too.
For a long time, women were taught to “act like men” to get ahead at work. They donned shoulder pads and boxy suits, played by the rules, and acted out qualities that seemed to make for successful leaders, authority, decisiveness, not being “too accessible”.
But a new breed of women leaders like Zirinsky is upending those old rules, embracing traits like empathy and collaboration to get things done, and refusing to suppress the qualities that make them who they are. (Some may call these “feminine” qualities, but others prefer to call them the traits of well-rounded leaders.)
Think JacindaArdern, prime minister of New Zealand (and one of the few world leaders to give birth while in office), who spoke onstage at the first New Rules Summit last year. Ardern drew international praise for her ability to mix compassion with concrete action in the wake of a recent mass shooting in her country. In the hours after, Ardern, the youngest female leader in the world at 38, wore a black headscarf and grieved alongside victims’ families. “We are one, they are us”.
She also took swift action, banning military-style semi-automatic weapons within days of the shooting. “It takes strength to be an empathetic leader.”
But that can also be a tricky line to walk for women. Research has found that when women exhibit character traits typically associated with male leadership traits like decisiveness, authority or assertion, they are likely to be viewed as bossy, pushy or too aggressive, and some people reel at their behaviour.
And yet when women turn around and exhibit the qualities traditionally expected of women like niceness, nurturing and warmth, they tend to be perceived as pushovers, too soft or not “tough enough” to do the job. It is a double bind, as sociologists have put it, a situation where you are “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”, as Joan C Williams, a law professor and workplace scholar, has said.
And yet there is also a body of work, including research by a Harvard Business School professor, Amy Cuddy, and colleagues, which found that women can offset that bias by combining these characteristics essentially, conveying warmth along with competence.
The good news is, there are simply more styles of leadership on display these days. Of more than 200 men fired according to an analysis by The Times last year, nearly half were replaced by women including Jennifer Salke at Amazon Studios, Christiane Amanpour at PBS and Zirinsky at CBS.
Today, for the first time, women hold the top jobs at the New York Stock Exchange and at Nasdaq. There is a female speaker of the US House of Representatives who is a mother of five and grandmother of nine. There are a record number of women in the US congress, including young rule breakers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who are leading with a level of camaraderie and transparency perhaps never before seen. And, of course, more women than ever are running for the Democratic nomination for president.
None of which is to say that women are innately better leaders. “That’s not necessarily the case,” says Marianne Cooper, a sociologist at Stanford University who studies gender and leadership. But there are certain things that women learn from a lifetime of operating in male-dominated spaces, things like patience, compassion and calm that may be assets.
“Women’s experiences at work are undeniably different,” Cooper, the sociologist, says. “As a result, they may develop a lens on the world that can lead to different thoughts about leadership, different priorities, different ways of interacting. I think certainly all these women in power can open up definitions of who’s a leader.”
There’s a theory in social science, coined by Michelle K Ryan and S Alexander Haslam as the “glass cliff”, that explains how women are more likely to be put into leadership roles during times of crisis. This can end up well if they are successful, but be damaging if they are not because the failure tends to be viewed not as indicative of the circumstances, but as indicative of the person’s race or gender.
The way to break that cycle, researchers say, is to have more women in power  so that one woman’s experience does not represent that of all women. (Having more women in decision-making roles has also been found to generate stronger market returns and superior profits for companies. And having more women employees, particularly in leadership roles, can reduce the incidence of sexual harassment, too.)
Benett is of the Independent Newspaper. UK.

 

Jessica Benett

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NGO To Empower Over 300 Widows

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Over 300 widows in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State will be empowered in various skills come August 31, 2019 by a non-governmental organisation, under the auspices of ‘Handmaid Widows Initiative’.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Tide last Saturday during its monthly meetings to cater for the widows in Port Harcourt, the visioneer, Handmaid Widows’ Initiative, Chief Grace Opara, stated that over 40 women have been trained already in various empowerment skills and that by August 31, over 300 will be trained making a total of 340 widows trained within a year of the inception of her initiative.
Opara said that the training of 300 widows in August would be part of the ways her initiative would want to mark the 2019 World International Widows’ Day which is yearly celebrated on June 23.
Explaining the theme for this year: ‘Towards Progress For Widows,’ she said her initiative has decided to go beyond giving widows food stuff, to empowering them in various skills such as tailoring, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), hair dressing, catering, liquid soup, Izal, insecticides, cream production, petty trading, among others, so they would be able to put food on their tables.
She appealled to well meaning individuals and philanthropists to partner with her initiative so as to put more smiles on the faces of widows and the down-trodden in the society.
Also speaking, the Coordinator, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Mrs Loreta Ahuokpeme, noted that widows in the society deserve equal treatments in their late husbands’ homes.
Ahuokpeme warned that it was time the society stopped all the harmful traditional practices meted out on women after the death of their husbands.
She maintained that her organisation would like to partner with the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) and other legal organisations such as the International Federation of Women Lawyers FIDA, Gender And Development Action GADA and Africa Women Lawyers Association in Nigeria (AWLAN).
Earlier, the President of Handmaid Widows Initiative, Mrs Favour Elechi, narrated how her late husband’s family abandoned her and six children, adding that most nights when there were nothing for them to eat, she had to pray over water and all of them drank and slept.
Elechi thanked God for the day she encountered the Handmaid Visioneer, Chief Grace Opara, explaining that hunger ceased from that day till date in her family as she has been trained in various skills that are putting food on her table.

 

Susan Serekara-Nwikhana

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